Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Reverb 14 · February Prompt · Heart

#reverb14 is an opportunity for participants to reflect throughout 2014. Each month, the Reverb team will post a new prompt. Join and write, or simply join and read.

February Prompt: Show us your heart. Let it all hang out. When have you thrown yourself into a challenge, or shown/received love?

"When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace."
(His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama)

Since the day she was born, my daughter, HRH, has had my heart. Yes, I love my husband more than crude English can convey. But my child….every mother knows the magical love that this bond holds. I love her unconditionally, even though there are some days that I don't particularly like her.

Those days, lately, have been more common. As the princess grows physically, mentally, and emotionally, she's also testing her boundaries more and more. Who knew that small humans would have such personalities? (HINT - not me - I really had no idea that someone that small could have such large opinions) Combine that with the emotional roller coaster that comes with being five…wow.  There are some days when I feel that I've barely eked into Newton's category of "fittest." Survival is a Real Thing, even in the suburbs.

So when it was hard to like her even though I love her with all my being, we had to do something.

Enter the Kindness Chart.

Each week, kind and unkind acts are being tallied. If more kind acts are tallied than unkind ones, HRH is allowed to participate in swim and ballet. If there are more unkind acts than kind ones, or if there are more than five unkind acts in a week, swim and ballet are cancelled for the week.

In case you're curious, ballet is A Really Big Deal in our house, so missing it on account of unkindness? Unspeakable horrors.

While in some sense, this is, in fact, bribery (and I'm OK with that), it's also a way for a five-year-old to start understanding that kind and loving acts actually benefit her, even if it doesn't seem that way at first. After all, it's difficult for many grown people to comprehend that a kind word to a stranger has positive effects to more than just that stranger, so applying it to situations that HRH can understand can help her comprehend the larger picture as she grows older.

And then….an unexpected benefit.

"Yes, peanut?"
"I love you so much."
"I love you so much, too."

"Mom, I just really love you."
"I love you, too!"

"Yeah, sweetie."
"You're the best."
"Aww, thanks! You're the best, too."
"No, YOU'RE the best."

"Mom, Dad makes THE BEST pancakes. They're the best in the world."
"He certainly does. We should thank him for making sure you have pancakes for breakfast all week."
"Can you call him so I can say thank you to him?"

They keep coming. Suddenly, being aware of her kind actions has made her want to be as kind as possible. While surely some of this arises from the desire to have more kind acts tallied than unkind ones in order to ensure swim and ballet each week  (while optimistic, I'm not completely blind to this), I see a marked change in HRH. While she still fights us about going to bed some nights, and she doesn't always do what we ask her to do the first time (or the second time…and when she finally does what we ask, it's not always cheerfully), she is more cognizant of the consequences of her actions.  She is creating cause and effect relationships that show she's thinking before she takes an action, at least most of the time.  When she receives a gift, she more often than not thanks the person right away or tells me she needs to write a thank you card.  She offers us fruit leathers when she gets one for herself (even though she always gives us the apricot ones, because those are her least favorite).  And the other day, she became extremely worried that Megan needed a proof of life:

"How's Ms. Megan doing?"
"She's fine."
"Are you sure?"
"Uh…pretty sure." (nothing like a 5YO causing you to doubt your answers)
"Is she all right?"
"I think so.  She was yesterday."
"Can we FaceTime her just to make sure?"

Yes, Ms. Megan was fine.  We didn't FaceTime her, although I remembered later that HRH had tried to FaceTime her the day before when we were trying to call my mom, so maybe she was concerned because Ms. Megan didn't answer (I stopped the call, as it was later in the evening).  Who knows.  I texted her with a request to let us know that she was, indeed, "all right," and we were all good.  HRH was extremely relieved.

Being kind isn't always easy.  But when I know that my child is thinking of others, it's worth those days when I just want to survive until bedtime.

"Where there is love, there is life."
(Mahatma Gandhi)

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